In the previous entry we presented for the reader five passages from the Holy Qur᾿an which reinforce the fact that the deceased are unable to hear. However, those astray sects which believe in Simaa᾿ al-Mawtaa (hearing of the dead) present the Hadith about the hearing of the slain polytheists of Mecca whose rotting corpses were thrown in the well of Badr to substantiate the hearing of the dead.
Hypothetically, if this Hadith, in the way the antagonists present it, is to be accepted at face value, it only proves a specific instance when deceased people heard something emanating from this world, i.e., the voice of our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم.In no way can the Hadith, even at its face value, be utilized as an evidence to substantiate a general and unrestricted capacity of hearing for the dead.
But let us go further than this basic reply and delve into the issue deeper. The Hadith in question needs to be analyzed more carefully. It has come to us with a degree of variation. Still, let us only examine the narrations concerning this event as reported in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari alone:
فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَهُوَ يُلْقِيهِمْ : " هَلْ وَجَدْتُمْ مَا وَعَدَكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ حَقًّا " ، قَالَ : مُوسَى ، قَالَ نَافِعٌ : قَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ : قَالَ نَاسٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ تُنَادِي نَاسًا أَمْوَاتًا ، قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " مَا أَنْتُمْ بِأَسْمَعَ لِمَا قُلْتُ مِنْهُمْ "
“While the corpses of Al-Mushrikun were being thrown into the well, Allah᾿s Messenger صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said (to them): ‘Have you found what your Lord promised true?’” ᾿Abdullah [b. Umar] said, “Some of the Prophet᾿s companions said, ‘O Allah᾿s Messenger! You are addressing dead people.” Allah᾿s Messenger صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم replied, “You do not hear what I am saying better than they.” [Bukhari; Kitab al-Maghazi, #4026]
The first thing to note and keep in mind with this narration of Abdullah b. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) is that after the Prophet (peace be upon him) addressed the apparently slain polytheists who were thrown into the well, the people were surprised and asked said “are you addressing the dead?”
The surprise of the companions means that they did not find it ordinary for someone to speak to the dead obviously because they held it to be impossible for the dead to hear.
In another version of this Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) adds something in reply to this question “are you addressing the dead?”
فَقَالَ : مَا أَنْتُمْ بِأَسْمَعَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَكِنْ لَا يُجِيبُونَ
“You do not hear better than them except that they cannot respond.” [Bukhari; Kitab al-Jana᾿iz, Bab Ma Jaa᾿ fi Adhabil Qabr]
The apparent meaning of this narration is that while the dead polytheists could hear the Prophet (peace be upon him) they did not possess the capacity to respond.
Now let us examine the narration of Abi Talhah (may Allah be pleased with him):
عَنْ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ ، أَنَّ نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَمَرَ يَوْمَ بَدْرٍ بِأَرْبَعَةٍ وَعِشْرِينَ رَجُلًا مِنْ صَنَادِيدِ قُرَيْشٍ , فَقُذِفُوا فِي طَوِيٍّ مِنْ أَطْوَاءِ بَدْرٍ خَبِيثٍ مُخْبِثٍ , وَكَانَ إِذَا ظَهَرَ عَلَى قَوْمٍ أَقَامَ بِالْعَرْصَةِ ثَلَاثَ لَيَالٍ , فَلَمَّا كَانَ بِبَدْرٍ الْيَوْمَ الثَّالِثَ أَمَرَ بِرَاحِلَتِهِ فَشُدَّ عَلَيْهَا رَحْلُهَا , ثُمَّ مَشَى وَاتَّبَعَهُ أَصْحَابُهُ ، وَقَالُوا : مَا نُرَى يَنْطَلِقُ إِلَّا لِبَعْضِ حَاجَتِهِ حَتَّى قَامَ عَلَى شَفَةِ الرَّكِيِّ فَجَعَلَ يُنَادِيهِمْ بِأَسْمَائِهِمْ وَأَسْمَاءِ آبَائِهِمْ يَا فُلَانُ بْنَ فُلَانٍ ، وَيَا فُلَانُ بْنَ فُلَانٍ أَيَسُرُّكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ أَطَعْتُمُ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ , فَإِنَّا قَدْ وَجَدْنَا مَا وَعَدَنَا رَبُّنَا حَقًّا , فَهَلْ وَجَدْتُمْ مَا وَعَدَ رَبُّكُمْ حَقًّا ؟ قَالَ : فَقَالَ عُمَرُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَا تُكَلِّمُ مِنْ أَجْسَادٍ لَا أَرْوَاحَ لَهَا ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ , مَا أَنْتُمْ بِأَسْمَعَ لِمَا أَقُولُ مِنْهُمْ " ، قَالَ قَتَادَةُ : أَحْيَاهُمُ اللَّهُ حَتَّى أَسْمَعَهُمْ قَوْلَهُ تَوْبِيخًا وَتَصْغِيرًا وَنَقِيمَةً وَحَسْرَةً وَنَدَمًا
Narrated Abu Talha (Radiyallahu anhu): On the day (of the battle) of Badr, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم ordered that the corpses of twenty-four leaders of Quraish should be thrown into one of the dirty dry well from the wells of Badr. (It was the habit of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم) that whenever he conquered some people, he used to stay at the battlefield for three nights. So, on the third day of the battle of Badr, he ordered that his she-camel be saddled, then he set out, and his Companions followed him saying among themselves, “Definitely he (i.e. the Prophet) is proceeding for some great purpose. When he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) halted at the edge of the well, he addressed the corpses of the Quraish infidels by their names and their fathers᾿ names, “O so-and-so, son of so-and-so and O so-and-so, son of so-and-so! Would it have pleased you if you had obeyed Allah and His Messenger? We have found true what our Lord promised us. Have you, too, found true what your lord promised you?” Umar said, “O Allah᾿s Messenger! You are speaking to bodies that have no souls!” Allah᾿s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “By Him in Whose Hand Muhammad᾿s soul is, you do not hear what I say better than they do.” Qatada said, “Allah brought them to life (again) to let them hear him (i.e., the Prophet), to reprimand them and slight them and take revenge over them and caused them to feel remorseful and regretful.” [Bukhari; Kitab al-Maghazi, #3976]
In this narration, we see that Umar b. al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) was confused and surprised as to why the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was addressing a group of people who were apparently dead, and he asked: “Are you speaking to bodies that have no souls?!” It can mean nothing except that, thus far, Umar (Allah be pleased with him) had been taught or believed that the dead are bodies without souls and thus do not have the capacity to hear.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Qatadah b. Dia᾿amah (d.118 H), an eminent Imam from the Salaf, comments on this Hadith by explaining that the dead polytheists slain in Badr were temporarily brought back to life by Allah in order to hear the words of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) addressed to them. If the early view of Qatadah is to be accepted, it refutes the evidence presented by those who say the dead can hear, because when the slain polytheists heard the words of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) they were not dead but temporarily brought back to life. We do not intend to open the debate as to the validity of this position in this entry (we will deal with the issue of the dead coming back to this world later ان شاء الله), but only to show that an eminent Imam such as Qatadah was so unwilling to accept that the dead can hear that he interpreted the Hadith to mean that the slain polytheists were temporarily brought back to life.
Finally, let us examine the narration of the Mother of the Believers, Sayyida Aaisha (may Allah be pleased with her):
ذُكِرَ عِنْدَ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا ، أَنَّ ابْنَ عُمَرَ رَفَعَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : إِنَّ الْمَيِّتَ يُعَذَّبُ فِي قَبْرِهِ بِبُكَاءِ أَهْلِهِ ، فَقَالَتْ : وَهَلَ إِنَّمَا قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " إِنَّهُ لَيُعَذَّبُ بِخَطِيئَتِهِ وَذَنْبِهِ وَإِنَّ أَهْلَهُ لَيَبْكُونَ عَلَيْهِ الْآنَ " ، قَالَتْ : وَذَاكَ مِثْلُ قَوْلِهِ إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَامَ عَلَى الْقَلِيبِ وَفِيهِ قَتْلَى بَدْرٍ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ، فَقَالَ : لَهُمْ مَا قَالَ : " إِنَّهُمْ لَيَسْمَعُونَ مَا أَقُولُ " , إِنَّمَا قَالَ : " إِنَّهُمُ الْآنَ لَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ مَا كُنْتُ أَقُولُ لَهُمْ حَقٌّ " ثُمَّ قَرَأَتْ إِنَّكَ لا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَى سورة النمل آية 80 , وَمَا أَنْتَ بِمُسْمِعٍ مَنْ فِي الْقُبُورِ سورة فاطر آية 22 يَقُولُ : حِينَ تَبَوَّءُوا مَقَاعِدَهُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ
It was mentioned before ᾿Aishah (Radiyallahu anha) that Ibn Umar attributed the following statement to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “The dead person is punished in the grave because of the crying and lamentation of his family.” On that ᾿Aisha said, “But Allah᾿s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “The dead person is punished for his crimes and sins while his family cry over him then.” Aishah added, “And this is similar to the statement of Allah᾿s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم when he stood by the (edge of the) well which contained the corpses of Al-Mushrikun killed at Badr and said, ‘They hear what I say.’” She added, “But he said: ‘Now they know very well what I used to tell them was the truth.’” Aishah then recited: “So verily, you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) cannot make the dead to hear...” [30:52]. “...But you cannot make hear those who are in graves.” [35:22] that is, when they had taken their places in the (Hell) Fire. [Bukhari; Kitab al-Maghazi, #3978,3979, 3980)
What is derived from this narration is that Sayyida Aishah (Allah be pleased with her) corrected two errors from Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him). The first error concerns the punishment of the deceased due to his family wailing over him. The second error was concerning the way the narration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) addressing the slain polytheists of Badr was reported. Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) corrected Ibn Umar and explained that the Prophet actually said that the polytheists now have certain knowledge as to what the Prophet peace be upon him used to preach them. In other words, the Prophet did not say that the slain polytheists in the well could hear him, rather their souls were now aware and had certain knowledge as to the reality. Furthermore, Sayyida Aishah (Allah be pleased with her) justified her position by quoting the verses from the Holy Qur᾿an which reinforce the fact that the deceased are unable to hear.